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Judy Foreman: Entrepreneurs Emily Rosendahl, Rob DaFoe Share Love and Creativity in the Funk Zone

Emily Rosendahl Leather Goods springs to life in side-by-side studio with a budding wine artist and filmmaker

Emily Rosendahl and Rob DaFoe are proving that leather goods and wine are a good pairing — and it’s been good for their relationship, too. The couple is getting married later this month.

Emily Rosendahl and Rob DaFoe are proving that leather goods and wine are a good pairing — and it’s been good for their relationship, too. The couple is getting married later this month.  (Lili De Voto / Noozhawk photo)

By Judy Foreman, Noozhawk Columnist | @noozhawknews |

[Click here for a related Noozhawk photo gallery.]

On a recent morning, I was driving through Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone, searching for the offices of handbag designer Emily Rosendahl and multifaceted artist Rob DaFoe.

Lower Anacapa Street was busy for a late summer morning, with delivery trucks jostling with pedestrian traffic, a lunchtime crowd gathering at the Lucky Penny and the wine rooms pouring their first tastes of the day.

After several wrong turns, I finally found the second-floor office and  showroom for Emily Rosendahl Leather Goods and Rob DaFoe.

A half wall divides the 500-foot space with DaFoe’s side filled with stacked wine cases marked TANNER DAFOE, and walls hung with modern art. On the other side of the half wall is a showroom filled with industrial furniture, leather skins and scraps, with fixtures displaying Rosendahl’s spirited mix of all-American one-of-a-kind leather handbags. Imagine cowgirl chic with a Ralph Lauren timelessness.

Long before Rosendahl hand stitched her first handbag, she was working for several years at Upstairs at Pierre Lafond with Shelley Koury, who has a keen eye for talented sales people to work at one of Santa Barbara’s favorite jewel box of a retail store.

In 2007, while on a vacation visit to her childhood home in Jackson Hole, Wyo., Rosendahl stopped in at a saddle shop and — she relates — the smell of leather scraps and the gorgeous old tools kindled sparks of her creativity. It was those very scraps that inspired her to hand stitch her first handbag.

Hailing from a long line of creative women, Rosendahl was taught to sew at age 6 by her mother and grandmother. On her 33rd birthday, she turned in her resignation letter at Pierre Lafond and went into full production. Her company was officially born.

Currently, Rosendahl has a full line of handbags of many styles, shapes and sizes and a growing business. Every one of her handbags is still made by hand — her two hands to be exact. She tests each product as she buzzes off to Wyoming, Hawaii, Napa Valley, New York, Europe or Africa to meet her suppliers. She feels her customers appreciate a handmade one-of-a-kind handbag.

With no formal training, Rosendahl said she feels “life experience can be more important than the classroom.”

DaFoe, meanwhile, is a filmmaker, photographer, artist, writer and retired professional snowboarder and wine maker.

Bantering back and forth at our interview, they both agreed that Rosendahl is a focused artist and, according to her, “an A personality type.”

DaFoe describes himself as “more punk rock, frenetic and edgier.” He is also the founder of Sonnet29 Motion Arts, an independent production company.

In 2008, From Ground to Glass, DaFoe’s first feature film, was premiered at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. The documentary film follows his quest to make wine and understand the draw to the wine lifestyle.

After graduating from Dos Pueblos High School, DaFoe set off to see the world, beginning with trips to Mexico and Europe, followed by a skateboarding trip through Canada. Stopping to visit friends in Lake Tahoe on his way home, he got hooked on the infant sport of snowboarding and rapidly advanced to professional status, traveling the world to compete in the sport’s top events.

DaFoe co-directed two internationally distributed action sports videos, and helped to promote and brand companies such as Arnette, QuicksilverVolcom and Nitro Surfboards, to name a few. He also wrote and took pictures for numerous articles for top snowboarding publications. And he designed and built the original in-ground elements and rail slides that made the Snow Board Park at Bear Mountain world-famous and the standard for park design to this day.

After injuries sidelined him permanently from snowboarding, he focused on his love of film and art. He returned to Santa Barbara and in 2000 moved to the wine country in the Santa Ynez Valley. There he performed promotional videos and photographic services for wineries, while he painted, rode horses and explored moviemaking.

Inspired to craft his own wine and to document the process, DaFoe enlisted the help of Chuck Carlson at Curtis Winery. What started as a window into the winemaking process became a larger story as DaFoe began interviewing winemakers, growers, home enthusiasts and visionaries from all over California.

The result was From Ground to Glass, a unique cinematic journey into the world of wine.

“In making this film, I interviewed a lot of people who caught the wine bug and went 90 degrees in their career paths to make a life of wine,” DaFoe said. “It’s something that’s both familiar and inspiring to me.”

DaFoe currently favors Tanner DaFoe 2010 Cabernet, which can be found at the Liquor & Wine Grotto and on the menu at Lucky’s in Montecito.

Rosendahl and DaFoe’s shared workspace on Anacapa Street is also about a shared life, and the two young entrepreneurs are to be married this summer at their Summerland home.

The couple, who met earlier this year at a mutual friend’s dinner party, say they complement each other stylistically, with a passion for traveling, art, nature, horses, dogs and Santa Barbara’s infinite possibility for their creative juices.

Their first date was paddle boarding and dinner at the Nugget and hours of conversation. That conversation is still a big part of their relationship as they plan their August nuptials and their rest of their lives in Santa Barbara. Cheers!

Click here for more information about Emily Rosendahl Leather Goods. Click here for more information about Tanner DaFoe or contact [email protected].

— Judy Foreman is a Noozhawk columnist and longtime local writer and lifestyles observer. She can be contacted at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.




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